Resource Portal for Entry-level Studies in Early Christianity

Interest in early Christianity has grown tremendously over the past decade and a half, but finding the right information can be difficult for those just beginning in the field. Below, a handful of different types of resources are listed as suggested entry points. I have designed this guide for students at the University of Kentucky and tried to restrict listed resources to those students may access. Students with access to a theological library will find many additional resources there. [Read more…]


Comparing Databases: A Brief Look at Academic Search Complete and Periodical Archive Online


When searching for online access to information, options and sources seem to be endless. Even limiting searches to subscription databases leaves one with many different choices. Content may overlap between database providers and even between databases from the same provider. Choices must be made based on who provides the necessary content and how easy that content is to navigate. Below, two different database providers as well as one of their databases will be compared as an example of criteria to consider: EBSCOhost and ProQuest. [Read more…]

New Testament Commentary Survey, 7th ed. — Review

Carson, D. A. New Testament Commentary Survey. 7th ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013. 176pp + xvi.

Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey continues to be a popular bibliographic resource among a rather niche community in the biblical studies world. Carson serves at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) as professor of New Testament and is a widely-respected biblical studies scholar. While Carson’s work is not alone in this market, many have grown to trust his judgments and appreciate his concise and terse annotations.

Carson’s Commentary Survey provides readers with his own ranking and assessment of modern commentaries. Bibliographic information and annotations fall into three sections in the book: commentary series or single volumes, New Testament surveys and theologies, and commentaries on individual books of the Bible. The first two sections are arranged alphabetically by series or work title; the last section is arranged by canonical order of the biblical books with each relevant commentary generally mentioned in descending order of recommendation. Only partial bibliographic information is provided for each work (typically missing the publisher and city), though each reference contains enough information to track down the work. Annotations vary from several sentences down to 1–2 (or less) sentences per work with most falling on the shorter end of the spectrum. The text is arranged into paragraphs, often with multiple works listed in a single paragraph. Italicized author names help distinguish the entries. Carson’s “Best Buys” (p. 167–68) are listed in a table toward the end of the book, for those looking for quick commentary suggestions, and an index of authors’ names helps readers work backward from specific commentary to Carson’s comments.

Summary: Carson’s Commentary Survey provides helpful bibliographic direction from an evangelical perspective. It is ideally suited to pastors and students relatively new to biblical studies, but may be profitable and even enjoyable to read for the seasoned scholar. The reference nature of the work and its relatively low cost (around $11 on make it a helpful resource for most libraries. Recommended.

The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. — Review

Society of Biblical Literature. The SBL Handbook of Style: For Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines. 2nd ed. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014. 351pp + xiv.

The SBL Handbook of Style has served as a normalizing standard for many biblical studies publications for over a decade and a half. This second edition will extend that tradition. The SBL Handbook contains many of the features a person would expect in a style manual: discussion of formatting, general style such as punctuation and numbers, and citation instructions and examples. Most of the discussion follows the traditional humanities course set by The Chicago Manual of Style,  16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Where the work particularly stands out, however, is in its examples of particularly difficult citation examples from classical or church fathers series and in its many lists. Students and scholars alike often struggle to apply Chicago 16’s citation style to early Christian works and ancient Near Eastern texts and collections. The SBL Handbook provides several examples. Lists occupy the bulk of the work. These range from capitalization lists and publication information to abbreviations for church fathers and ancient Near Eastern text collections. One will also encounter several transliteration tables for languages relevant to biblical studies and the ancient Near East.

The second edition has updated and expanded many of the lists, provided more style-related information, and has expanded and changed some of the citation requirements. It serves as a thorough replacement to the first edition.

Summary: The 2nd edition of The SBL Handbook of Style will be in important addition to any library providing resources for or serving a patron-base interested in biblical studies, early Christianity, ancient Near Eastern culture and writing, and related fields. For some, it may serve as a full style manual. For others, the work will serve as an important tool tracking down interpretations for the occasionally-cryptic abbreviations found in many biblical studies and related publications. Highly recommended, this work will benefit college students, graduate students, and scholars alike.

Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers — Review

Wallace, Daniel B., Brittany C. Burnette, and Terri Darby Moore. A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013. 250pp.

The most recent “reader’s lexicon” from Kregel Academic follows well the footsteps of their previous work: Burer, Michael H., and Jeffrey E. Miller. A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2008. Here, though, the work serves as a bridge to the Greek text of the Apostolic Fathers. As a reader’s lexicon, entries are not arranged alphabetically [Read more…]

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed. — Review

Green, Joel B. Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Second Edition. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013. 1088pp + xxxi.

Edited by Joel Green, a New Testament professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and well published author, this second edition of the dictionary is a welcome addition to the IVP Dictionary Series. Written primarily for students—undergraduates and graduates—and pastors, this dictionary addresses a broad range of subjects related to Jesus and Gospel studies from an evangelical [Read more…]

Evernote for Academics: 6 Notes to Help Manage Library Research

Evernote has become a favorite tool for composing class and seminar notes, reading notes, paper ideas and the like. I’ve also found it to be a great place to organize and manage research.

Below are six “notes” I’ve started creating and keeping for each large research project. Each heading below represents a note title in Evernote. Following each, I’ll also provide short descriptions for my typical note content. When working on multiple projects, I add an underscore and a shortened form of the project name to each of these note titles (ex: “Research Log _ Erasmus”). This prevents new projects from [Read more…]

The Fast Way to Remember Which Books You Own While Away From Home (Evernote)

Organize Library EvernoteOne difficulty that comes from owning a large and growing personal library is remembering what you own. Typically I buy most of my books online from the comfort of my desk. I can easily determine if I already own a book by either looking at the shelves or checking Zotero. Other times though, I will see several new titles added to the ‘bargain’ wall at the bookstore and not remember if I already own them (not often, but it does happen).

Those who use Evernote can fix this problem in a matter of minutes. A few days ago, author and blogger  Jamie Todd Rubin shared how he created “a digital version of [his] bookshelves in Evernote”. He writes,

I know there are database systems out there for keeping track of books, and I’ve tried many of them but they are too time consuming for me. It occurred to me that, thanks to Evernote’s ability to identify text in images and allow you to search that text, an “image library” of my books might be just the trick.

Rubin takes pictures of his bookshelves and adds them to Evernote. Evernote’s OCR identifies the titles from the spines of the books (yes, even when they are vertical!) and allows you to instantly search your library for a given title. Wow! While I am one of those ‘database users’, this is a quick and simple way to keep track of titles away from home. At the bookstore? Just open Evernote on your smartphone and search the title. Evernote will show you the shelf picture with the title highlighted in yellow.

This would not be my primary organizational method, but for on-the-go purposes it is hard to beat. Check out his full post to see several images of what this looks like and his step-by-step process (he uses this as a master organizational tool).

Quick Thoughts on Zotero 4

Zotero 4The recent release of Zotero 4 has brought both bug fixes and additional features. The brief announcement lists a few of the bigger features:

  • Tag colors
  • On-demand download support
  • Relative path support for linked files
  • Automatic style updating for all installed styles
  • Automatic journal abbreviation support
  • Firefox 20 compatibility (Zotero for Firefox)
  • …plus much more.

A full list of the changes and bug fixes can be found here.

In an earlier post, I discussed in depth how I organize and use Zotero. Here I will merely highlight and comment upon a few new features in Zotero 4.

Zotero 4 color tags

Zotero 4 color and newline-separated tags

1. Ability to use color tags (up to 6 colors). Right-click the tag (from the tag selector in the lower left corner) to add or remove a color. I’m not using the colors on normal tags, but I create ‘ranking’ tags. Since the colors also appear in the center pane next to the work’s title, I can use colors to distinguish visually between works of various importance for a paper. (See image.)

2. Styles are now updated automatically.

3. Blue dots indicate attachments. Now I can quickly tell if I have a PDF of the work. The arrow only indicates child notes, and the attachments column in Zotero 3 could only tell the number of child notes attached (not all that helpful for me).

4. The middle pane no longer scrolls around when updating an item (bug fix).

5. Multiple newline-separated features. If you were wondering what this was, you can now paste tags from multiple lines of text into a tag box and create multiple tags at once (each desired tag is on a separate line in a document). The same can be done for creators (they must be ‘last, first’ format and pasted into the ‘last’ field). Holding ‘shift’ while hitting ‘return’ in a tag will also allow multiple tags to be created at once (only hold ‘shift’ for the first ‘return’). See the above image for a picture of this. This feature could be nice, but it does not autofill like a single tag does. Hitting return after adding a single tag already opens a box for another tag. So it is faster for me to add them individually. However, where this feature is very nice is in the ‘creator’ field. Holding ‘shift’ and hitting ‘return’ after entering a creator now adds and opens another ‘creator’ field (like adding single tags and hitting ‘return’). This is very welcome. Recently I’ve added a number of items manually that had an author (section of book) and three editors. Clicking the plus sign was getting old.

There are a number of other good features that have been added. These simply stood out for my uses. What new features have been the biggest helps for you? I welcome questions and comments about my use of Zotero.

Another Take on Learning Greek

The Art of Reading Latin: How to Teach ItWilliam Gardner Hale. The Art of Reading Latin: How to Teach It. Boston: Ginn & Co., 1887. 64pp. Free from Google Books.

“The attacks which have been made of late upon the study of Greek and to some extent upon the study of Latin have had at their backs the conviction that the results obtained are very much out of proportion to the years of labor spent upon these languages by the schoolboy and the college student.” (5)

So opens Hale’s work, and I suspect many still have the same concern today, over a century later.

A professor of Latin at Cornell University, Hale delivered the first portion of this book as “an address delivered before the Associated Academic Principles of the State of New York” (5). He is dissatisfied with both the method and the results of the (then) current model for language learning, and believes he has the solution. Hale has in mind the Latin and Greek of classical studies, but the jump into biblical studies is a small one. He chooses to focus specifically on [Read more…]

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